Tag Archives: Ramsey family

Mary and Rebecca Ramsey and the Good Deed of Their Father (52 Ancestors #8)

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John Ramsey died in Ohio in 1810, leaving his widow, Elizabeth, several children, and some land. John also died without a will. While that was poor planning on John’s part, it actually turns out to be good for his descendants (like me).

When someone who owned land dies without a will, the estate needs to take into account all of the heirs so that the land can either be divided among them or sold to another party. Truth be told, you’re sometimes better off having an ancestor die without a will. If he leaves a will, he doesn’t need to name all of his children in it. Die without a will and all of the heirs are going to be listed somewhere.

And so it was with John Ramsey. After his death, his widow, Elizabeth, wanted to divide and sell the land. At the time in Ohio, the heirs of the estate would have had to go through a partition suit, where the administrator of the estate would sue the heirs in order to divide it. I haven’t found the partition suit yet, but the resulting deeds shed light on who the heirs were.

Top of Perry County, Ohio deed book C, page 189, Perry County Recorder's Office.

Top of Perry County, Ohio deed book C, page 189, Perry County Recorder’s Office.

I won’t make you try to read the beginning of the deed. Here’s a transcription:

“Know all men by these presents that I Elizabeth Ramsey Widow and relict of John Ramsey late of Hopewell Township in the County then of Fairfield now Perry deceased and also assignee of Samuel Ramsey John Ramsey and James Ramsey three of the heirs at Law of said John Ramsey deceased and we Robert Fulerton [sic] and Rebecca his wife and Andrew McBride and Mary his wife (which said Rebecca Fullerton and Mary McBride are also children and heirs at law of said John Ramsey deceased) to Elizabeth Ramsey in hand paid…”1)Ramsey deed, Perry County Deed Book C, page 189, Perry County Recorder’s Office, New Lexington, Ohio.

A Quick Note About Heirs

“Heir” does NOT necessarily mean “child of.” It means someone who is legally entitled to inherit from an estate. If you write a will, you decide who your heirs are. If you die without a will, the probate laws in effect in your state will determine who the heirs are.

HeirUnderstanding the Probate Laws

How do we know how the heirs of an estate are? If there’s a will, you have to depend on the testator (the person leaving the will) to spell it out. If there isn’t a will, then you need to understand the laws of probate at the time when your ancestor died. Ohio researchers are fortunate that the Ohio Genealogical Society has published two books that cover the laws of the state through 1831. (Abstracts and Extracts of the Legislative Acts and Resolutions of the State of Ohio: 1803-1821 and …1821-1831.)

A law in 1804 (still in effect in 1810) provided that “if the estate came not be descent, devise or deed of gift, but was acquired by purchase, by the intestate, it shall descent to the children of the intestate and their legal representatives” and “…where one or more of them [children of the intestate] are dead and one or more living, the issue of those dead shall have a right to partition, and such issue, in such chase, shall take per stirpes, that is to say, the share of their deceased parents.” If the intestate had no children, then “the estate shall pass to the brothers and sisters of the intestate of the whole blood, and their legal representatives.”2)Mary L. Bowman, Abstracts and Extracts of the Legislative Acts and Resolutions of the State of Ohio: 1803-1821 (Mansfield: Ohio Genealogical Society, 1994), p. 44.

Long story short: if the intestate had children, those children are his heirs. Also, the children of any of his deceased children are his heirs. Only if the intestate didn’t have children would the heirs be his siblings.

What This Means for the Heirs of John Ramsey

First, John Ramsey purchased the land in question; that puts the law of descent listed above into effect. Samuel Ramsey, John Ramsey, and James Ramsey were named in the deed as heirs at law of John Ramsey, deceased. Rebecca Fullerton and Mary McBride were named as “children and heirs at law” of John Ramsey, deceased.

Since Mary and Rebecca were children, then the other heirs (Samuel, John, and James) had to have been either sons or grandsons of John Ramsey. They couldn’t have been brothers or nephews.

All from a deed.

Land was important to our ancestors. Since it mattered to them, it should matter to us, because it created some great records. The effort it takes to go through land records is soooo worth it.

References   [ + ]

1. Ramsey deed, Perry County Deed Book C, page 189, Perry County Recorder’s Office, New Lexington, Ohio.
2. Mary L. Bowman, Abstracts and Extracts of the Legislative Acts and Resolutions of the State of Ohio: 1803-1821 (Mansfield: Ohio Genealogical Society, 1994), p. 44.

Della Starkey Ramsey: The Grandmother I Never Met (52 Ancestors #52)

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There are countless inspirations for beginning the quest to discover your family’s history. For me, it started with my two grandmothers. My paternal grandmother Adah Young Johnson, the first of my “52 Ancestors” this year, was the keeper of the family stories and the family Bible. In many ways, she was our family’s historian. But it was my maternal grandmother, Della Starkey Ramsey, who inspired my first search.

I never met my Grandma Ramsey. She died when my mom was only 8. She had suffered a miscarriage and developed peritonitis. Though the condition is still serious, today it is much more easily treated. People typically don’t die from it today. She was only 27.

Grandpa remarried about 4 years later. Mom still had contact with the Starkeys (her mom’s family), but she was closer with the Ramseys. Consequently, Mom didn’t grow up with the stories or the heritage from that side of the family. It wasn’t until I started researching that she knew the maiden name of her Grandma Starkey (Della’s mother).

Mom hasn’t told us many stories about her mom. I hope she won’t mind me sharing this one.

The day of the funeral was rainy. Like a typical 8-year-old girl — and one who is trying desperately to find a sense of “normal” when her world has turned upside down — my mom was worried that her brand new hair ribbons would be ruined. Her father gently assured her that if they did, he would buy her some new ones.

I only have one photograph of my grandmother. Though she is in profile, I love how content she seems and how happy my mom looks.

scan0002Della Starkey Ramsey was born 4 February 1911 in Perry County, Ohio, the fourth of Edward and Clara (Skinner) Starkey’s eight children. She married Ralph Ramsey in 1929. She died 12 July 1938 in Perry County and is buried at the top of the hill in Olivet Cemetery.

Charlotte Danison Ramsey: The Two Missing Children (52 Ancestors #38)

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You can learn a lot from two little numbers. In the 1900 and 1910 federal censuses, there were two questions asked of women: Mother of how many children and how many are still alive. For Charlotte Danison Ramsey, those numbers were 8 and 5.

I can identify six of her children:

  • Mary, born 1854
  • James Martin, born 1856
  • John (my great-grandfather), born 1860
  • Harriet, born 1862. She died in 1872 of spinal affliction.
  • Emma, born 1866
  • Louisa, born 1869

Who are Charlotte’s other two children? Charlotte married Samuel Elliot Ramsey in 1851. Did they have a child before Mary in 1854? Was there a child between James and John? Was there a child between Harriet and Emma? Was there a child after Louisa?

Ohio didn’t begin civil registration of births and deaths until 1868. I have looked through the records for Perry County, Ohio, where Charlotte and Samuel lived their entire lives. Unless we find a tombstone or a church record for the other two children, we will likely never know who they were.

Charlotte was born in 1832 and was the daughter of Abisha and Mary (Deffenbaugh) Danison. She married Samuel in 1851. After John’s death in 1906, Charlotte lived with her daughter Emma and her family. She died in 1911 and is buried in Mount Perry Cemetery.

Charlotte Ramsey 1910 census

Charlotte Ramsey, 1910 federal census, Hopewell Twp., Perry Co., Ohio.

Samuel Elliot Ramsey: My Surprising Shepherd (52 Ancestors #37)

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If you’ve been reading No Story Too Small for awhile, you might have picked up on the fact that I love non-population census schedules. While they don’t give specific genealogical details, they can offer us wonderful context about the people we are researching.

Coming from a long, Long, LONG line of farmers, I’m often drawn to the agricultural schedules. Yes, the census lists him as a farmer, but what did he raise? I was surprised at the answer for my great-great-grandfather Samuel Elliot Ramsey.

In 1860, Samuel is listed as having four horses, three “milch cows,” five “other cattle,” ten sheep, and 27 swine. Total value = $371. He also had 20 pounds of wool, but no crops. His father James lived next door. Unlike Samuel, James did have crops, including wheat, Indian corn, oats, potatoes, butter, hay, and molasses. It makes me wonder if they combined their farming operation, with Samuel being in charge of the livestock and James in charge of the crops.

By 1880, Samuel’s farming operation had grown substantially. His farm was worth $3,390, with 91 acres of improved, tilled land, 2 acres of meadows, and 20 acres of woodland. He raised Indian corn, oats, and wheat. and had 30 apple trees. All of these were in amounts a bit below average with his neighbors.

Where Samuel stood out was in the number of sheep that he raised. In June 1880, he had 110 sheep, all of whom were either shorn or were to be shorn. One of his neighbors had 150 sheep, but the others had 58 or fewer.

"Sheep," by Alice Popkorn.  (Used under Creative Commons license CC BY-ND 2.0.)

Sheep,” by Alice Popkorn.
(Used under Creative Commons license CC BY-ND 2.0.)

Samuel Elliot Ramsey was born in Perry County, Ohio in 1827 and was the son of James H. and Catherine Ramsey. He married Charlotte Danison in 1851. He died 2 August 1906 in Perry County and is buried in Mount Perry Cemetery.

Breaking the Mold of the Hidden Woman: Elizabeth Peden Ramsey (52 Ancestors #12)

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The female half of the tree is harder to research. In most western cultures, a woman’s surname changes with each marriage, so you don’t always know what name to look for. She is often omitted from records because of her less-than-equal legal standing. Even a man’s will might leave a bequest “to my beloved wife” without actually listing her by name. Elizabeth Peden Ramsey, my 4th-great-grandmother, broke out of the mold of the hidden woman.

Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Peden and wife of John Ramsey, left significantly more records than many woman of her time. In 1807, she began the purchase of the southeast 1/4 of section 28, township 18, range 17 (in present-day Thorn Township, Perry County, Ohio).[1] In doing so, she became the first woman to purchase land in present-day Perry County from the federal government.[2] What’s really neat about this — her husband was still living when she began the purchase.

When John died c1810, it was Elizabeth who was named as the administratrix of his estate.[3] She was also named the guardian of their two minor daughters Mary and Sarah.[4] It’s important to remember that the role a guardian was to protect the legal interests of the minors; it wasn’t to raise the minor. Although in this case, Elizabeth was doing that as well. What legal interests did Mary and Sarah have? Their portion of their father’s estate, including his land. They may also have been heirs to their grandfather’s estate, as there is a notation in John’s estate about money being paid to their sister Elizabeth receiving a bequest from it.

Elizabeth Ramsey appointed guardian of Mary and Sarah Ramsey. Case 1114, Fairfield County Probate Court, Lancaster, Ohio.

Elizabeth Ramsey appointed guardian of Mary and Sarah Ramsey. Case 1114, Fairfield County Probate Court, Lancaster, Ohio.

In another unusual move, Elizabeth actually left her own estate when she died in late 1832.[5] I still need to comb through the rest of her land records in Perry County, but apparently she died with enough property (or enough debts) to warrant opening an estate to settle it.

For all of the difficulties in tracing women, it is refreshing to have an ancestor who broke the mold.

[1] Land Grand Records, Chillicothe, Ohio Land Office. Ohio Historical Society, Columbus.
[2] L. Richard Kocher, A Listing of Entrymen on Lands in Perry Co, Ohio, Columbus: Woolkoch, 1993. [This book lists the original purchasers of land in present-day Perry County. The listing was read for female first name. Elizabeth Ramsey’s entry in 1807 is the earliest with a female first name.]
[3] John Ramsey estate, case 65, Fairfield County, Ohio Probate Court, Lancaster, Ohio. [Note: Thorn and Hopewell Townships, where John and Elizabeth lived and owned land, was part of Fairfield County in 1810.]
[4] Mary and Sarah Ramsey guardianship, case 1114, Fairfield County Probate Court, Lancaster, Ohio.
[5] Minute Book F, Perry County Probate Court, New Lexington, Ohio, page 66. [Robert Fullerton and James H. Ramsey were appointed administrators of her estate in the November term, 1832.]

Came to a Fiery End: John Ramsey, 1860-1941 (52 Ancestors #7)

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John Ramsey (1860-1941), undated photo.

John Ramsey (1860-1941), undated photo.

John Ramsey, my great-grandfather, was a farmer all his life. It was working the land that eventually claimed his life.

John was born in Perry County, Ohio in 1860, the son of Samuel and Charlotte (Danison) Ramsey. In 1887, he married Melzena Kelly. John and Melzena had a tough life. They lost at least four children before their daughter Carrie was born in 1895; they would lose six children in all before 1900.

When Melzena died at the age of 49, John was left to care for four children, ranging in age from 6 to 16. (Ralph, my grandfather, was the 6-year-old.) Surprisingly, John never remarried.

John’s son Luke never married; he lived at home until John’s death. My mom remembers the front room at her Grandpa Ramsey’s house. It had a wood stove and a chair on either side — one for her grandpa and one for Uncle Luke. She also remembers her grandpa chewing tobacco and spitting into the fire. (Eww.)

The Somerset (Ohio) Press, Thursday, 10 April 1941, page 1.

The Somerset (Ohio) Press, Thursday, 10 April 1941, page 1.

Tuesday morning, 8 April 1941, John went to one of his fields to burn off some brush. It isn’t known if he had a heart attack and collapsed or if the fire turned on him and he was overcome by smoke. In either case, he collapsed and was burned “beyond recognition.” He was discovered later that afternoon by one of mom’s classmates.

He and Melzena are buried in Highland Cemetery in Glenford.

NOTE: John Ramsey isn’t my only ancestor to meet with a fiery end. Next week, I’ll discuss my ancestor John McClelland, who participated in the ill-fated Crawford Campaign.


The Grandfather I Barely Knew: Ralph F. Ramsey, 1907-1984 (52 Ancestors #6)

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In a perfect world, I would have known him better. After all, I was a teenager when he died. There should have been lots of opportunities to get to know my Grandpa Ramsey. But it isn’t a perfect world.

I won’t get into the reasons why I rarely saw him, even though he lived only about an hour away. The reasons now aren’t all that important.

My Grandpa, Ralph F. Ramsey, on a rare visit to our house, 1971.

My Grandpa, Ralph F. Ramsey, on a rare visit to our house, 1971.

Ralph F. Ramsey was born 7 December 1907 in Perry County, Ohio. (I can always remember his birthday since the Japanese decided to celebrate it in 1941 by bombing Pearl Harbor.) The memories I have of him is that he was a quiet man and I remember him smiling.

He married my grandmother Della Starkey on 22 May 1929. Together, they lived in the sprawling metropolis of Glenford (population: less than 500 at its peak). After her untimely death, he married Wilda Leckrone.

Grandpa was a shovel operator for Central Silica. It’s funny — he’s one of my few non-farmer ancestors and even then he worked in dirt.

Back in the 1950s, Grandpa and my mom drove to Alabama to pick up Mom’s cousin who was getting out of the Navy. (I think I have that detail correct. Note to self: call Mom and find out who it was.) They stopped at a roadside rest along the way and there were people taking a survey, seeing where people were coming from and going to. Keep in mind, Grandpa lived his entire life in Glenford or just outside of it. So how did he answer the question, “Sir, where are you from?”

“I’m from Thornville, Ohio.”

Thornville? Grandpa never lived there a day in his life.  Later, my mom asked him why he answered that way.

“Because I figured he’d never heard of Glenford.”

(Yet, somehow, this highway worker from Alabama might have heard of Thornville? And we wonder why there are weird answers in things like the census.)

It was because of Grandpa that I flew for the first time. Mom and I were on vacation in Florida with my oldest sister and her family. We had all gone together in their RV; Dad couldn’t join us because of work. The night before we were going to head home, we called Dad… and learned that Grandpa had died. There was no way we could drive back in time for the funeral; Mom and I flew home the next morning.

Grandpa Ramsey – a quiet man, sported a crew-cut, and always made a perfect pot of coffee without ever measuring. In a perfect world, I’d have known him better.

52 Ancestors – #2 Melzena Kelly Ramsey, A Life of Loss

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Melzena Kelly Ramsey, my great-grandmother, was one of the first “new” ancestors I discovered when I started climbing the family tree. Unlike Dad’s side, where my grandma told me the names of many of the ancestors, Mom’s side was pretty much unknown to us.

I first found Melzena in the 1910 census when I was looking for my grandfather, Ralph Ramsey. I didn’t yet have a copy of Grandpa’s birth or death record, but I did have access to the 1910 census of Perry County, Ohio — on microfilm at my local public library. (This was the days before the Internet took off. There were forums on CompuServe and message boards, but nothing approaching digitized records. Yes, I realize how old I sound now. Get off my lawn.) Grandpa was easy to find; he lived in Hopewell Township, Perry County his entire life. Two-year-old Ralph, listed as son of John Ramsey; Melzena was listed as John’s wife.

I remember thinking what a neat name — Melzena. It wasn’t the type of name I was expecting.

John Ramsey household (part),1910 U.S. census, Hopewell Twp, Perry County, Ohio, ED 128, sheet 5A. Note: the rest of the family is on sheet 5B.

John Ramsey household (part),1910 U.S. census, Hopewell Twp, Perry County, Ohio, ED 128, sheet 5A. Note: the rest of the family is on sheet 5B.

When you sift through the numbers and the plain facts, the census can show so much about a person. Melzena Ramsey, wife (of John), female, white, 45 years old, married once (M1), married 23 years. It was the next two columns that made me curious. 11. 5. I remember scrolling back up to the top of the page to see what those columns were for.

Mother of how many children: Number born. Number now living.

11 children born. 5 now living.

Melzena had lost six children.

Combing through the Perry County birth and death records, only four of the six have been identified:

  • Edward, born 6 March 1888, died 2 April 1888. Cause of death: “debility.”
  • unnamed son, aged 13 days, died 17 February 1889. No cause of death listed.
  • unnamed infant (sex not listed), aged 1 day, died 17 April 1891. No cause of death listed.
  • unnamed daughter, aged 15 days, died 14 July 1894. No cause of death listed.

The 1900 census also shows Melzena as having lost six children, so the remaining two must have died before then. Was there a child before Edward and maybe a child before the daughter they lost in 1894? The first child to survive to adulthood was their daughter Carrie, born in 1895. Maybe they lost a child between Carrie and Frank (b. 1898). We’ll likely never know.

I think of Melzena and the children she lost. Did she dote on Carrie and her other children as they grew older or was she distant, afraid to get attached?

In a cruel twist of fate, Melzena died 6 July 1914 at the age of 49. Her five surviving children ranged in age from 19 to 6. For so long, she was a childless mother; all too young, her sons and daughters became motherless children.